Two contrasting approaches to ecstatic noise were on display in a stunning double-bill at The Vortex; the venue name entirely appropriate for the relentless churning fury of the two groups. Alex Ward (guitar) and Jem Doulton (drums) of Dead Days Beyond Help were tonight reinforced by Alan Wilkinson (saxophones). Their set was full of racing grinding riffs, the drums winding lithely around the falling sparks created by the butting metallic heads of Ward and Wilkinson, who loudly roared and whooped in the stormier passages. A marauding free-rock monster, Dead Days Beyond Help offer the sort of all-encompassing open-minded avant-blasting that is often required to keep yourself sane.
Dead Neanderthals summoned their amazing music through sheer force of will. Two baritone saxophonists (Colin Webster and Otto Kokke) and a drummer (Rene Aquarius) unleashed music of such molten fury that it should have gripped the attention of even the most leather-eared and jaded volume-junky. Those who have heard their excellent album for Raw Tonk, ‘…And It Ended Badly’, will be familiar with the band’s capacity for screaming intensity; this, however, still left me vulnerable to what was a performance of such passion and fire that I became concerned at points that we might not all make it out the other side. After being illuminated by three harsh glaring spot lights, Webster and Kokke immediately set about constructing a tower of honking the likes of which I have rarely witnessed, the drums a rattling machine gun accompaniment. They unrelentingly delivered a torrent of sound that suggested the missing link between John Coltrane’s ‘Ascension’ and the experience of pulping your head in a blender. Passing through several boundaries: flinching discomfort at the volume and aggression, building to excitement as the noise took full-hold, and then over the event horizon into a sort of bludgeoned zen-calm as it finally ate what was left of my mind and my last coherent thought disappeared into its gaping razored maw.
A willing, if shell-shocked, supplicant to a blaring sacrifice, I wobbled out into the night with smoking ears and a head full of static and slowly cooling rubble; a bus transporting me home in a daze.